The Atlantic

American Democracy Can’t Fix Itself

Instead of placing their faith in the resilience of the system, ordinary voters are going to have to step up and restore the constitutional balance of power.
Source: Jonathan Drake / Reuters

The claims this past week that high-level officials are secretly undercutting the president in an effort to restrain a commander in chief they no longer feel is fit for office has left many Americans deeply unsettled. “Just a glance at recent headlines should tell you that this moment really is different,” former President Barack Obama said on Friday. “The stakes really are higher, the consequences of any of us sitting on the sidelines are more dire.” The free press is constantly assailed by the president, pluralism faces the challenge of white nationalism, law-enforcement agencies are attacked by Donald Trump’s supporters, and electoral processes are threatened by foreign governments and their hackers. Increasing numbers of Americans are asking whether their democracy will survive.

The optimists assure us that the system will work. We are told that American democracy is resilient. We have gotten through these moments before, and we can do so again. The former White House ethics czar Norman Eisen, who has been hard-hitting in his criticism of President Trump, CNN’s Anderson Cooper that “in every case, sooner or later, every dog gets its day. And sooner or later, democracy is more powerful.”

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